From Domestic to Global-Avoid the Pitfalls.

For those companies on the verge of worldwide growth or looking to increase their presence by moving into a new marketplace(s) the task can seem daunting. Suddenly you are looking at starting all over again…going from a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a very large ocean. Marketing strategies that have helped you become a major player in your domestic market suddenly need to be reviewed and potentially completely rewritten

Where to start?

First and perhaps the most obvious, Do your research! Do not assume that just because something worked brilliantly in your domestic market, it will automatically be received well in another market. The one size fits all marketing strategy simply does not exist.

What pitfalls have companies experienced before? There are numerous examples of very large companies rolling out their offering into a particular market without undertaking the appropriate level of research, the results of which can be seen as amusing or disastrous depending on your involvement with the company!

For example,

  • In the late 1980s KFC tried to expand their brand in China but got off to a shocking start when they translated their slogan “Finger-lickin’ good” to a much less appealing: “Eat your fingers off.”
  • Colgate launched toothpaste in France named “Cue” which was also the name of a French pornographic magazine.
  • When Ford were marketing the Pinto in Brazil, they failed to consider that Pinto in Brazilian Portuguese also means ‘tiny male genitals’
  • Mercedes-Benz entered the Chinese market under the brand name “Bensi,” which translates as “rush to die.” Perhaps not the best advertisement for a car!
  • Another example from China- Pepsi’s slogan “Pepsi Brings You Back to Life” was translated in China as “Pepsi Brings You Back from the Grave.” Again, perhaps quite an ambitious goal from a soft drink company!

As can be seen from the above examples, all messaging doesn’t translate well across all markets. Even some of the largest global brands are capable of making mistakes. How do you avoid similar pitfalls?

The following are some guidelines to get you started.

Know the market

As soon as you decide to extend your product and marketing efforts worldwide, you must understand where you will be working. Every market is different. What works in one will not necessarily work in another. Visit the country, attend trade shows, understand the social and cultural norms. Are there any specific legal regulations that could impact your business in this market? Is the opportunity big enough to warrant your proposed expansion? Will your offering even be accepted in the countries you want to expand in? Is it a truly global product or service? Do your research. And then do some more. If all signs point to yes, then work on your entry strategy. Involve people who understand the particular market- don’t make the mistake of assuming you have the same level of local knowledge and expertise as these people and so don’t need them

The competitive landscape

It may seem obvious but complete a thorough analysis of the main players in your industry operating in the chosen market. What learnings can you take from their successes/failures in the past. How are they positioning themselves? How can you differentiate yourself to offer the consumer something new?

Know your target consumers

Who are you targeting? Where do they get their information? Consumers today have so much choice and are overloaded with messaging- Focus on how you can meet their needs and how you can communicate this effectively to them. Once you understand your consumer you will be able to develop clear strategies on how and where to target them

Refine your strategy

By now, you should have an extensive amount of information on your potential new market. Once you have collated all the learnings from your research, its time to refine your marketing strategy. As is apparent so far, what works domestically may not work internationally.


Take your time, analyse carefully, have trust in your offering and conviction in your decisions.